More than one-third of women in America have bunions, a common deformity often blamed on wearing tight, narrow shoes and high heels. Bunions may occur in families, but many are from wearing tight shoes, and nine out of 10 bunions happen to women. Too-tight shoes can also cause other disabling foot problems such as corns, calluses and hammer toes.
Bunions form when the normal balance of forces exerted on the joints and tendons of your feet are disrupted. This can lead to instability in the big toe joint - also known as the first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, causing a deformity. Bunions develop over years of abnormal motion and pressure on your big toe joint. They often result from a combination of your inherited foot type, faulty foot mechanics that affect the way you walk and shoes that fit improperly. Other causes of bunions include foot injuries. Deformities present at birth (congenital). Neuromuscular disorders, such as cerebral palsy or post- polio syndrome (post-poliomyelitis). Bunions may be associated with various forms of arthritis, including inflammatory or degenerative, causing the protective cartilage that covers your big toe joint to deteriorate. An occupation that puts extra stress on your feet also can be a cause. Waiters, factory workers, dancers and athletes often are more prone to developing bunions.
No matter what stage your bunion is in, you can be in pain. Though bunions take years to develop, you can experience pain at any stage. Some people don?t have bunion pain at all. Pain from a bunion can be severe enough to keep you from walking comfortably in normal shoes. The skin and deeper tissue around the bunion also may become swollen or inflamed.
Diagnosis begins with a careful history and physical examination by your doctor. This will usually include a discussion about shoe wear and the importance of shoes in the development and treatment of the condition. X-rays will probably be suggested. This allows your doctor to measure several important angles made by the bones of the feet to help determine the appropriate treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Patients with a painful bunion may benefit from four to six physical therapy treatments. Your therapist can offer ideas of shoes that have a wide toe box (mentioned earlier). The added space in this part of the shoe keeps the metatarsals from getting squeezed inside the shoe. A special pad can also be placed over the bunion. Foot orthotics may be issued to support the arch and hold the big toe in better alignment. These changes to your footwear may allow you to resume normal walking immediately, but you should probably cut back on more vigorous activities for several weeks to allow the inflammation and pain to subside. Treatments directed to the painful area help control pain and swelling. Examples include ultrasound, moist heat, and soft-tissue massage. Therapy sessions sometimes include iontophoresis, which uses a mild electrical current to push anti-inflammatory medicine to the sore area. This treatment is especially helpful for patients who can't tolerate injections.
In cases where joint pain and deformity are severe, joint replacement surgery may be recommended. This may particularly be recommended when arthritis is present in the joint. Surgery may be carried out under a local, regional or general anaesthetic. Most cases are performed as a day stay procedure. However, an overnight stay in hospital may be required if the surgery is more extensive. The type of surgery to be performed, the type of anaesthetic to be used and the expected hospital stay should be discussed with your surgeon prior to surgery.